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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Does Confession = Repentance?

I’m piggy-backing a little bit on today’s post at These Ordinary Days, because as I consider the sacraments, confession has risen to a highly elevated place of importance in my life, yet I think I may have neglected to tie this in well with repentance.

I want it to be a ‘given’ that when we confess—personally, communally, and systemically—we are actually sorry enough to turn away from our sin and turn toward something better… someone better…  Jesus… redemption…

I’m not sure I’ve always been great at that, though, and I wonder how many others might share this struggle.

Confession, on its own, is difficult.  To say, “I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I love you,” is to be vulnerable in all kinds of ways that bring discomfort to humanity.  Ooh…  Have a song:

The Catholic Catechism speaks to the sacrament of forgiveness in this way, “the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification” (1446).  Oddly enough, Protestants don’t seem to grasp this as so salvific in nature, and I’m not entirely certain why.   

Coming from a Wesleyan viewpoint, it actually makes perfect sense that we should confess our sins, contritely, as often as we are aware of them.  For I surely hope that we have left in the past the idea that sanctification is synonymous with literal perfection.  None of us has arrived.  Interestingly, the Catechism seems to tie this need for penance directly to the very working of the Holy Spirit in lives and hearts.  Perhaps to be sanctified wholly (holy) is, in part, to recognize our continuing need for confession that leads to penitent action.

Language matters, and these are some words I think we should use more liberally:

Contrition: “Sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again” (1451).

Confession (disclosure): “Through such an admission man (woman, child) looks squarely at the sins he (she) is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself (herself) again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible” (1455, parentheticals mine).  

Satisfaction/Penance: “One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm” (1459)… “It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed” (1460).

This concept of a new future together overwhelms me, almost to tears.  After all, isn’t this what we ultimately hope for as the Kingdom of God continues to break into our lives? 

May we recognize our wrongs, prompted by the Holy Spirit, and may we make them right again, by grace.


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